Artist Ella Mai
Album Ella Mai Label 10 Summers/Interscope
The curse of the one-hit wonder is a hard one to shake, especially for a newcomer with a platinum-certified international hit such as Boo’d Up. South London-born R&B singer Ella Mai broke through this year while touring this lovestruck anthem in the US – despite it being released almost 12 months prior – and there is pressure for her to cement herself in the scene beyond a single track. With A-list features (Chris Brown, John Legend and HER all appear), Mai’s self-titled debut strives to provide some much-needed context to the artist behind this massive hit. And notwithstanding a few lazy attempts to replicate the formula, for the most part it achieves that goal. The triumph of Mai’s first single lay in its ability to cut through a scene full of trap beats and emo rap with a refreshing blend of nostalgic romanticism, simplicity and an Urban Dictionary-savvy hook. But occasionally, Mai’s use of memeable lyrics and an affected American accent wear thin, revealing a slight disconnect between the projected persona and the actual artist – who speaks in a British accent on the spoken-word skits here. On Sauce, she brags of an attitude too confident for men to handle, selfdiagnosing – unconvincingly – a case of “too much sawce” over a decidedly generic backing track. Instead, it’s the full-bodied and fiery tunes Dangerous and Shot Clock that shine through, with their honeyed yet passionate vocals, pointedly candid lyrics, and throwback instrumentation modernised with dark synths and percussion. These are better signs of Mai’s authentic R&B star potential than any millennial slang.